by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) Feb 02, 2014
An Italian woman watched aghast as her seven-year-old daughter and two other female relatives were swept to their deaths Sunday when an overflowing river in Sicily engulfed their car, media reported.
The family members were all travelling in the same small Lancia hatchback before dawn when it was grabbed by the rushing waters in eastern Sicily.
The woman and three other occupants made it out and to the safety of the riverbank, but her daughter and two other women remained trapped inside and drowned.
Elsewhere on the Italian island, a four-wheel-drive vehicle was also picked up by a raging river, but both occupants were rescued in an operation involving a helicopter.
The incidents occurred as Italy suffered a bout of foul weather over the weekend that has unfurled rain and windstorms across the country, making rivers surge and causing widespread flooding.
Heavy snowfall in the Italian Alps has disrupted communications and electricity supplies, and resulted in the suspension of some train services with neighbouring Austria.
The meteorological conditions were expected to last into Tuesday.
120,000 households without power as snow, sleet hit Slovenia
Slovenia's meteorology agency ARSO declared a high alert over most of the country, urging citizens to stay at home and warning the weather conditions on Sunday afternoon and overnight could still pose a serious threat to people and their properties.
In the Postojna area, some 40 kilometres (24 miles) south of the capital Ljubljana, power lines collapsed under the weight of ice and snow or falling trees and could not be repaired due to the continuing bad weather.
The highway connecting Ljubljana with the Adriatic coast remained closed for hours on Sunday after a power line broke and fell over it while the traffic information centre on its website warned many roads all over the country were closed due to collapsed trees, power lines or ice.
"This is a large-scale natural disaster," Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek said after visiting the Postojna area on Sunday, adding her government would ask the European Union's assistance in providing a large number of power generators needed to bridge the power shortage.
Power cuts were also reported in some areas of Ljubljana, Celje and Maribor, leaving around 120,000 households or some 250,000 citizens in the country of two million people without electricity, private POP tv reported quoting electricity distribution sources.
"The power shortages are no longer a local but a state problem," Defence Minister Roman Jakic said earlier on Sunday, adding the army was ready to help if the civil services needed assistance in removing snow, ice or collapsed trees from roads and energy lines.
During the day, the Defence Ministry said the army had deployed 100 soldiers to assist the civil defence units in the Postojna region and added power generators from Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic were on their way and would be distributed to the most critical areas.
Due to the extraordinary weather conditions, around 75 percent of kindergartens, schools and high schools in Slovenia will remain closed on Monday, the Education Ministry said.
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